The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent

A Novel

Large Print - 2016
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"When Cora Seaborne's brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Wed at nineteen, this woman of exceptional intelligence and curiosity was ill-suited for the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year old son, Francis, and the boy's nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend. While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year's Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief. These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart--an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected. And as they search for answers, Cora's London past follows her to the coast, with striking consequences. Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, The Essex Serpent masterfully explores questions of science and religion, skepticism and faith, but it is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different -- and surprising -- guises it can take."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : HarperLuxe, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2016].
Edition: First HarperLuxe edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780062670380
Call Number: PERRY
Characteristics: large print
584 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
Subjects: Historical fiction.
Gothic fiction.
Detective and mystery fiction.
Essex (England) -- Fiction.
Great Britain -- History -- Victoria, 1837-1901 -- Fiction.
Large type books.
Man-woman relationships -- Fiction.
Animals, Mythical -- Fiction.
Clergy -- Fiction.
Widows -- Fiction.
Alternative Title: Serpent's tail.


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Mar 18, 2018

A deftly handled study of human relationships and the philosophies, conventions and obligations that shape them. On the surface, Perry explores the timeless interaction of science vs. faith, embodied by our protagonist and her star-cross'd sweetheart—the married parson of a small, seaside village. However, through the cast of characters that orbit this nascent romance, we see the effects of social structure, government, urban, rural, education, matrimony, health and superstition on our day-to-day lives.

All of this, of course, set against the muddy, foreboding backdrop of Victorian England. Much like the setting, this book is conservatively paced...measured in months and punctuated by correspondence between various characters. The pace and plotting, however, rewards the reader who sticks with it, providing enough twists and turns to make you wonder if there is indeed something lurking in the blackwater of Aldwinter bay.

Feb 06, 2018

Complicated human relationships tied up and complicated by Victorian religious beliefs, social change, superstition and science. I thought I would enjoy this more but perhaps my expectations were too high.

EscapesToBooks Jan 03, 2018

A beautiful exploration of the human psyche.

debwalker Dec 28, 2017

For those who love a deep immersive read that takes you into another world - late Victorian Essex and London. So much meat on these bones! Characters who live and breathe. Love triangles every which way. And battles of ideas - science vs religion - never gets old. So much like us in some ways. And not. People consumed by diseases and wounds that are now curable. Women trapped in toxic marriages. Autism present but not understood. And medieval superstitions just lurking beneath the surface of things. Amply deserving of the awards.

SPL_Brittany Oct 09, 2017

For a full review see the Summary section. Review first published in the Stratford Gazette October 2017.

Sep 28, 2017

Plodding with too many pages. A good subject that could have been honed into a better work.

Sep 19, 2017

Hum, this wasn’t my favorite book, and I’m not sure why. It certainly tilted my vision of Victorian England. An independent wealthy widow with a Marxist loving assistant and a son who might be diagnosed as highly functioning autistic today. Cora leaves London for Essex because of her love of fossils. She finds a community worried about a sea monster, and she finds love in a strange place, a parsonage with a deep-thinking minister and his wife dying of tuberculosis. Add a wealthy London doctor who wants to put his fortune to good use, and a forward-thinking surgeon who is in love with the widow, Cora. All the elements are there for a good book, and it is excellent writing, descriptive and detailed but it didn’t suck me into the pages the way I expected it to do.

tarauaine Aug 30, 2017

A memorable book with interesting characters and wonderful atmosphere. I can see this book as a movie and hope it's on the cards.

Aug 29, 2017

I expected to like this book but could hardly finish it. It started out with promise and the writing was good, but the story simply didn't go anywhere and where it did go was not believable or interesting

Aug 16, 2017

Recent widow and amateur naturalist Cora takes her companion Martha and son Frankie to the Essex coast. Here they are introduced to the story of the Essex Serpent and the family of the local vicar and residents in a coastal village. And, we stay in touch, as Cora does, with friends in London. Amazing stories every one. Narrative just simmers!

So many themes, so many characters, but all handled brilliantly by this young author. This book takes historical fiction to a whole new level. Quite an accomplishment. I’m sure this will be among my Best Books of 2017. Read more about fossil hunter Mary Anning and the hunt for prehistoric creatures in Tracy Chevalier’s wonderful book ‘Remarkable Creatures.’

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SPL_Brittany Oct 09, 2017

Set in the late Victorian era, recent widow Cora Seaborne leaves London with her son Francis, and loyal companion Martha and journeys to Aldwinter, a small village in Essex, where a legendary fearsome creature called the Essex Serpent has been sighted. Cora, who is more interested in the study of nature as an amateur naturalist, would rather be tramping about the countryside free from the strictures of society and the trappings of her gender, is determined to find proof of this creature. Through mutual acquaintances, she is introduced to the Ransome family - William the local reverend, his devoted yet sickly wife Stella and their three children. While Cora looks for scientific reasoning for the serpent, William dismisses it as superstition and a deviation from true faith. Cora and Will’s friendship is both forged and exasperated by their differing opinions as they can agree on absolutely nothing, yet both are drawn toward the other. Their friendship is threatened with the arrival of Cora’s friend Luke Garrett a skilled surgeon who carries a not-so-secret torch for Cora. In the end, a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent will dictate the happiness of these characters.

A perfect time of the year to sit back and enjoy transporting to a time in England where the belief in mythical creatures and modern science coexisted side by side. Where Londoners traveled by tube and horse drawn carriages, used both electricity and candlelight, and experimented with modern medicine. Perry writes a novel filled with beautiful prose that is atmospheric and a touch gothic, filled with wonderfully drawn characters who offer social commentary on the debate between science and religion, social issues in London, as well as examining the varied nature of love through each of the characters who orbit around Cora. Awarded British Book of the Year and gathering increasing attention, a wonderful read that will delight readers of literary and historical fiction as well as providing plenty of discussion for book clubs.


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